Water. Why should we change it?

Why should I change my water?

Or... "my beer is just fine..." 

It's just one more tool to make better beer.

To make a style closer to it's original by using an authentic ingredient....water! 

Two main reasons to make changes: 

1) pH , relative acidity

Important in mash chemistry

Mostly a concern for mash brewers

2) Flavor and Character,

accentuate beer profiles; sweetness, bitterness etc.

Good for mashers and extract brewers 

Basic Chemistry



Power of Hydrogen 

pH scale 1---->7 ---->14

Measure of acidity or the free H+ content of a solution 

Proper pH important for enzymes in the mash. Each enzyme has it's "optimal" working pH. Usually in the low 5's 

Ions, Molecules in a solution w/ a charge to them 

Acids -- compounds that give off an (H+) 

Bases -- compounds that give off an (OH-) 

Salts -- ionic compounds that are not acids or bases 

Buffers -- Compounds that help a solution resist changes in the pH. All have their own natural pH, basic or acidic, that they will go to. Some are stronger than others in "pulling" the pH in their direction. 

Mash Chemistry: 

pH in the mash.

Too high of a pH: Will leach out astringent flavors from the husk

Too low of a pH: Will get an overly sour beer.

Check to make sure your pH in above 5.0 at the beginning of the boil 

Most pale mashes will settle into a pH in the high 5's (5.9) due the natural phosphate buffers present in the grain. Mash enzymes work much better at a pH in the low 5's (5.2). So we need to aid in the acidification of the mash.  

Only Calcium and Carbonates play a significant role in mashing. 

Calcium can lower the pH to the proper range.

Calcium is not an acid -- it reacts w/ the phosphates in the mash and gives off an (H+), lowering the pH. 

Carbonates work the opposite way. They are alkaline buffers and force the pH upward. Too much is bad.

High carbonate water is generally bad, unless offset by high levels of calcium. 

Dealing with High Carbonate water: 

Get rid of carbonates by boiling. Settles out as white crud. Decant the liquid off.

Offset carbonates with dark roasted grains (naturally acidic) 


Enzymes in the mash , (optimum pH)



Beta-amylase 4.5-5.1

Alpha-amylase 5.5-6.1


Brewing Water


Not just "water" H2O,

Contains many other compounds, good and bad 






"Building" optimal water: 

Starting water profile: what level of things are in your water.  

Usually written in ppm (parts per million) same as mg/ml (milligrams per milliliter)

Tap water: can get a printout from the municipal water district

Bottled water: can get most profiles on the web.


Plain water: Distilled or reverse osmosis water (stripped). Can be used to dilute very hard water. 

Target water profile: Style or city of origin

usually a reason this style was started in that city, was it the water?

Most historical brewing centers' water has been profiled and can be found in books or on the net. 

Historical Water Profiles;

London - Carbonate ----> Porters and Stouts

Dublin - Carbonate ----> Porters and Stouts

Pilsen   - Very soft ----->Pale Lagers

Burton on Trent  - Gypseous ----->Pale Ale

Dortmund  - Carbonate ---->Dark Lagers 


Sparge water, Acidification 

Needed to keep from extracting tannins from the husks

Use lactic acid 


Getting to the target:



By Hand (see appendix) 

By Computer

I use, "Brewater 3.0"

Freeware from the web

Web Page----->Ken Schwartz's Index of Stuff


Ion's used in brewing: "The Major Players"


Calcium (Ca): Aids in the extraction of fine bittering principles from hops. Enhances protein coagulation (hot and cold brake). Beneficial to yeast. Aids shelf life. Helps establish an optimum mash pH. Ample calcium helps build body. 50-200 ppm 

Magnesuim (Mg): Yeast nutrient. Accentuates beer flavor . Causes astringent flavors at high concentrations. Best kept below 10-30 ppm 

Sodium (Na): Adds a "sweetness" and "fullness" to beer at reasonable concentrations. 2-100 ppm. Especially harsh in the presence of high amounts of Sulphates. 

Chloride (Cl): Adds a "fullness" Accentuates bitterness. Keep under 100 ppm (usually under 50) Especially in the presence of high amounts of Sulphates. 

Sulphates (SO4): Lends a dry, sometimes sharp character; accentuates hops. Strongly bitter above 500 ppm. Harsh in the presence of high amounts of Sodium . 

Carbonates (CO3): Harshens hop bitterness; reddens beer; hinders protein coagulation. Best kept below 50 ppm. Unless offset by high amounts of calcium or dark roasted grains.  

Salt compounds used Brewing.


"Where do I get these "Ions?"

Added as Compounds: 

Gypsum: Calcium sulfate (CaSO4)

Chalk: Calcium Carbonate (CaCO3)

Calcium Chloride (CaCl)

Canning salt: Sodium Chloride (NaCl)

Baking Soda: Sodium Bicarbonate (NaHCO3)

Epsom Salts: Magnesium Sulfate (MgSO4) 



Extract brewer's Educated guess 

Where was the extract made? Use about 30% of the mineral content of the Target city. Then add up to get to your target water profile. 


pH-- important in mashing to get the enzymes to work properly. And to keep off flavors out of the finished beer. 

Ions-- the seasoning in the water. 

Calcium-- good for all beers 

Gypsum (CaSO4)-- Good for pale beers, Lowers pH

-- minimizes color pick up

  -- Decreases Malliard reaction

-- Decreases the extraction of husk flavors 

Chalk (CaCO3) -- Good for dark beers, Raises the pH

-- Increases color pick up

  -- Increases Malliard reaction 

Add other "Ions" to enhance flavor profiles. Sweetness, bitterness, etc. 











Lower Temp 159F 

Lower pH 5.8


More Fermentable




Higher Temp 149F 

Higher pH 5.3– 5.4


Less Fermentable














































Canning salt









Baking Soda









Epsom Salt